The U.S. defeated Honduras 3-1 last night, but the outlay produced some mixed impressions of the Americans. Of course, they're off to the final, so any complaints should be taken with a grain of salt.
Honduras and high pressure
During the early goings, Honduras pressured very high on the ball, and they did find some joy with that. Now, that joy didn't include scoring an early goal or anything, but there was a certain sense that the midfield operated in a palpably different style.
- Honduras dedicated a man to Kyle Beckerman throughout the first half, even after the U.S. broke the deadlock early on. It was an interesting tactical approach that saw the U.S. initially struggle to build sensible possession, but two first-half goals made the marking rather useless.
- Those first-half goals strangely didn't change the dynamic until the second half. Honduras went in with a dedicated gameplan and didn't look to deviate from it.
Kyle Beckerman, midfield boss
Beckerman had one of those classic performances we're used to seeing from him over at Real Salt Lake, so watching him do it for the national side was certainly exciting. Despite being tightly marked for the first half, he kept the midfield ticking over (when balls weren't being flung over the top by a certain center back.) It was entirely telling that when he left the match, the midfield struggled to put much together. Of course, with the lackluster attack in at the end, that isn't too surprising.
During his 60-some-odd minutes, he completed 37 of 41 passes, was successful in 3 of 4 tackles, had 3 interceptions, and made 11 recoveries. Mm, Opta data.
Landon Donovan, capitalizer
That guy is just really very good, isn't he? I do love to hate him sometimes, but his clever movement and speed of thought render him a dangerous threat for the U.S. He's obviously very good with the Galaxy, too, but I'd rather he moved overseas and stopped bothering us at Real Salt Lake. Please?
One aspect of his game I sometimes miss (only sometimes, mind) is that he can capitalize on errors with the best of them. If you give him even the slightest opportunity to nick the ball off you, he'll do just that, then make a smart run, and the movement could well end with a goal.
Clarence Goodson and the long balls
A quick look at the chalkboards for the match (Opta data, hooray!) confirms what my eyes had already told me: Clarence Goodson was content to simply knock long balls over the top. Now, we did find some joy with the long ball, but when we're up 2-0, we have an opportunity to control the match. We should have used it considerably more — a better side would capitalize on those momenets.
One-dimensional attack: Shea, Wondolowski, and E. Johnson
We won, and that's not something to ignore, but that attacking outlay at the end was terribly one-dimensional. Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan paired acceptably together, but when Donovan came off and Wondolowski came on, there was no striker to drop deep and build from outside the box. Instead, the gap between the strikers and the midfield only grew. With Brek Shea in the mix, it only got worse. It's an attacking triumvirate that might produce goals with the right service, but it's never going to be a creative one.
Now, Brek Shea does run at players well, but I've never seen anything that suggests that he's capable of considerably more than that. His decision making is, at best, suspect. He can't be used tactically, as he's only really shown to be capable of playing that left-attacking-midfielder position.